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ekscrunchy Mar 31st, 2019 06:48 AM

MELBOURNE, and where else? And WHEN?
I am planning my first visit to Australia, sometime in 2021. We can choose between May-June and Late-September through early November. We can take about 3 weeks, plus or minus a few days. (More likely plus!)

Melbourne will be the primary destination. I am thinking (thank you FromDC!!) about two weeks in the city, with side trips. Might even consider skipping Sydney, in favor of more rural areas. Not too much interest in the Alice Springs, inland area. Not for first visit, in any case.

Leery of driving on left-hand side.....would prefer not to have to rent a car.

After Melbourne: Where?? Barrier Reef? Tasmania? Food is a prime interest. Wine, not so much. Swimming is a priority.

Finally, which times of the two time periods I mentioned, above??

I will take out guidebooks, and consult with my relative who is now living in Melbourne. But for the moment, just want a general idea of which time period is best..

For barrier reef, we would likely stay in one of the island resorts...I snorkel but neither of us is a diver. Does that (lack of diving) have an impact on the right decision?

We would be flying from NYC area; budget is flexible and we can look at luxe properties.

Any and all comments are most welcome!!

tripplanner001 Mar 31st, 2019 07:33 AM

In general the temperatures rise as the year progresses. June and September may be colder and limit what you can do outdoors, which is what I find most attractive about Australia. The time of year may also affect where you want to go after Melbourne. Tasmania will likely be quite cold in the winter months, for example.

I have not visited the Reef so I cannot comment on it. If you are looking for nice beaches, consider the Sunshine Coast in Southeast Queensland. Noosa is beautiful. Noosa is close to Brisbane as well as the Gold Coast. The whole area is very much worth a visit.

Thereís plenty to do in and around Melbourne to keep you busy. Consider a trip down to the Great Ocean Road for gorgeous coastal views, hikes, and wildlife. But for the best wildlife in Australia, IMO, head for Kangaroo Island. The beaches there are relatively untouched and we went to several that we had to ourselves. Here youíll likely encounter the iconic fauna in the wild.

Like many parts of the U.S., public transportation is not the easiest in Australia outside of the inner cities. That said, I am a non-driver and weíve travelled the country on several trips without a car. Your options would be tours - day trips or longer - and hiring drivers, which could be expensive depending on how many are you. To give you a sense, I have three trip reports from various trips around the country here; just click on my name to access them.

Melnq8 Mar 31st, 2019 08:58 AM

Tasmania is beautiful and if going there I'd probably choose Sept-Nov, as it tends to be cooler than most of Australia (even cold by OZ standards) can be rainy in winter. Same with Melbourne actually.

Just keep in mind that the black flies usually come out in October and they can be a total PITA. If it's warm, they're out.

I personally loved the weather from May-Sept in Western Australia (lived there for seven years) because it was cool! Summers there were pretty awful.

An added perk of September is wildflowers!

While Australian cities are well set up for public transport, going further afield can present some major issues. As mentioned above, you'd need organized tours for that.

As far as driving on the left, if I can do it, anyone can.

marg Mar 31st, 2019 01:43 PM

May/June can be very dismal in Melbourne so I'd choose September/November - the weather will be starting to warm up and the spring flowers will be out. The Melbourne Cup (horse race and very big deal in Australia) is run in early November and there are usually lots of festivities in connection. I'd also consider taking a few days from Melbourne and going to one of the regional cities - for example Ballarat is about 90 minutes by train from the CBD, has lots of interesting museums and art galleries, lovely gardens and nice old buildings. It would be easy to stay in the town close to restaurants and shops, and walk or taxi to nearby sites.

Bokhara2 Mar 31st, 2019 11:59 PM

If your priority is the Great Barrier Reef, then May-June would be better, because itís before the stinger season, which generally starts around September.

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, itís warmer in the north here and, as others have said, winter in Victoria & Tasmania can be pretty cold ( by Australian standards.). In the tropical North though, itís much warmer & an excellent time to go.

Iíd think it a shame to miss Sydney - itís a beautiful city, with myriad opportunities for exploring on walks & ferries - and day trips. You donít need to drive in the cities of Sydney or Melbourne, but a car is a distinct advantage for out of town jaunts.

As tripplanner says, public transport in regional areas doesnít really cut it - so if you can drive, Iíd encourage you to rent a car for those days. Itís not that difficult to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road - after all, we do it when we go to right-side driving countries.

If youíre going south, Iíd take Melbourne in September - but closer to November if you can swing it.

Remember to get your ETA before you book anything you canít cancel.

Thereía more traffic on the Australian board on TA than here, so you might like to visit there, too.

millie2112 Apr 1st, 2019 12:57 AM

victorian school holidays begin 29th of June for 2 weeks, and then again 21st of september for 2 weeks.
May/June is pretty miserable and cold.
I think september/october/november is better. also beware that around November 2nd is spring racing carnival and that week will have lots of hotels booked up and it will be pricey.

If you come later during the year you can also go to tasmania and I would also suggest the Sunshine coast. Noosa has a great swimming beach.

Diamantina Apr 1st, 2019 04:18 AM

If planning on going to Tropical North Queensland, keep in mind that cyclone season runs from November through April. This just means that cyclones are more likely to occur during this time of year.

I agree with Bokhara2, that you would probably enjoy Sydney. Consider its restaurants and swimming pools, its beautiful harbour and iconic Opera House.

I love Melbourne. You might enjoy this article about it's top restaurants:
While in Melbourne, try to get to Queen Victoria Market.
You also might want to pop into Books for Cooks across from the market.
I've heard Melbourne's Prahan Market is also worth a visit.

If you make it to Tasmania, you might want to read these links:

martharap Apr 2nd, 2019 02:46 AM

Weíre in Tassie now! What a beautiful place. Favorite places so far are Maria Island and Cradle Mountain, where we are now. Gorgeous day today (except for prescribed burn which made it very hazy and smoky in the afternoon), light rain tomorrow and then beautiful again on Thursday, our last full day here.

Amazing clear night sky near Coles Bay (Freycinet National Park) with the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds in all their glory. Clear here in the mountains too.

Wish we had more than 2 weeks to explore. So much more to see here.

ekscrunchy Apr 2nd, 2019 05:34 AM

Oh, my, lots of great info here. Many thanks!

It looks as if November might be our time period, except for the fact that the Reef would not be so great then.....but there is so much else to discover that I suppose we could leave that out..

I ordered a guidebook from the library so really have to peruse that....wonder about Melbourne, Tasmania and Sydney (??) I see we will have to rent a car, on Tasmania at least.
You guys know me well...the food is calling me!

tripplanner001 Apr 2nd, 2019 09:03 AM

Melbourne, Tasmania, and Sydney would be make a fine, first-trip introduction to Australia. You will have a mix of big cities and the great outdoors. Just do not underestimate the small size of Tasmania; you have some small, winding roads. To get a good taste of the island state requires at least 10 days IMO; two weeks would be better.

Driving will make things easiest on Tasmania. If you really don't want to drive, you could look at Tassielink, the island's bus transportation service (Tassielink Transit Bus Service Tasmania).

Also glad that you are considering adding Sydney. It is gorgeous, and there is plenty to do, even if you don't like a lot of the typical city sights. Take trips on the city's ferries exploring the harbor; you won't regret it. And if you are looking for day hikes, I recommend checking out the WildWalks website for ideas (Wildwalks | Your online bushwalking guide). A lot of it can be accessed by public transport - ferries, buses, and trains. Four to five nights offer a good look, but I've been 5 times and try to stay as long as I can each time.

To give you a sense, we took a version of this trip in 2016. We spent a week in Sydney, 5 nights in Melbourne, and 9 on Tasmania. On Tasmania, we only made it as far as Hobart, Port Arthur (doable as a day trip from Hobart), Bruny Island (also doable from Hobart), Strahan, and Cradle Mountain; we would have included Freycinet, Maria Island, and the area around Launceston if we had more time.

Melbourne is certainly a highlight when it comes to food, but don't overlook Tasmania. The seafood there is amazing, as well as the fresh produce.

Melnq8 Apr 2nd, 2019 10:21 AM

The seafood there is amazing, as well as the fresh produce.

And the cheese!

tripplanner001 Apr 2nd, 2019 02:06 PM

Originally Posted by Melnq8 (Post 16897795)
The seafood there is amazing, as well as the fresh produce.

And the cheese!

Yes, Mel, the CHEESE! ;) I was fortunate enough to try some King Island cheese at the Taste of Tasmania in Hobart.

Diamantina Apr 2nd, 2019 02:51 PM

I agree, try King Island cheese, Bruny Island oysters, Bass Strait scallops. Tasmania's Leatherwood Honey is unique and worth trying (though, personally, I dislike its strong taste--I bought a pot of it on my first trip to Tasmania many years ago and struggled to finish it). Tasmania also produces black truffles, which I haven't tried. Non-native Atlantic salmon and "ocean trout" (steelhead) are farmed in Tasmania and wildly available, but there are environmental concerrns associated with the Tasmanian salmon fishery. Anyhow, in the U.S. you have access to the best wild salmon in the world.

Yes, Australian seafood is amazing. You have to try Moreton Bay or Balmain bugs!

The unique flavors are "bush tucker" are also a must and you will find restaurants specializing in such foods and flavors.

northie Apr 2nd, 2019 09:24 PM

King Island cheese is available all over Australia - it is delicious but like the cape Griim beef you can get it most places

Diamantina Apr 3rd, 2019 12:39 AM

Sorry, I just noticed my typing errors. I meant to write "widely" available, not "wildly" available, and "of" bush tucker, not "are" bush tucker. About that Leatherwood honey, lots of people love it.

If you like chevre, you might want to try Meredith Dairy goat cheese marinated in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and thyme made in the state of Victoria, but widely available.

Melnq8 Apr 3rd, 2019 05:19 AM

I had carrots with Leatherwood honey at a restaurant in TAS many moons ago and I still remember how different it was. In my case different in a good way.

And on the subject of cheese, I desperately miss Mersey Valley cheese, which is widely available in Australia. Never had anything like it before or since, unfortunately. Loved that stuff.

ekscrunchy Apr 3rd, 2019 06:50 AM

Love all these food tips...I know next to nothing about the food except that Australia is on the cutting edge. I did buy leatherwood honey, in NYC, a few years ago. It cost a fortune!

I am just waiting to get my hands on that guidebook so I can read and return with more specific questions....we could stretch the trip to 4 weeks, I think...

margo_oz Apr 7th, 2019 04:04 AM

Thinking of skipping Sydney?!! Aaarrrtgggghhhh!!

ekscrunchy Apr 8th, 2019 06:46 AM

But I just read that the GBReef was good in November! (???)

I would love to stay on one of those islands.

Bokhara2 Apr 8th, 2019 05:29 PM

Itís not optimal by any means. Iíve tried 3 times to post a more comprehensive reply, but canít get the blasted thing to post. Iíll try to PM you.

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